Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gujarat grassroots leaders "amend" negative perception towards Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan

NBA-led satyagraha of Narmada oustees in Madhya Pradesh:
finding supported in Gujarat?  
By Our Representative
In an unusual development, some of the most well known Gujarat's grassroots leaders, many of whom were till now known for their inimical hatred towards the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and its leader Medha Patkar, is beginning to change its perception. So far characterizing NBA and Parkar as "anti-Gujarat" because of their opposition to the construction of the Narmada dam, these activists have now given enough indication to suggest that, as times have change, so should the perceptions.
In a significant reply to a query on the social media site Facebook, Sagar Rabari, who has led several successful land rights struggles across Gujarat, has suggested that, since the country's situation has changed, there is a need for fresh thinking, and it no more necessary to share the past perception on NBA and Medha Parkar.
Rabari and his colleagues of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj and the Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) led major struggles against the special investment regions (SIRs) in North Gujarat's Mandal-Bhechraji area, Bharuch district in South Gujarat, and Dholera area in Ahmedabad district.
While in Mandal-Bhechraji the Gujarat government was forced to downsize the SIR, in Bharuch it was forced to cancel it. As for Dholera, where the SIR is being proposed to be developed in order to implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream project of a smart city, the struggle is still on. A rally is already being planned against Dholera SIR as part of the fight against the anti-land acquisition Act.
Indicating that he would not hesitate in taking support from the NBA and Parkar, Rabari says, now that the Narmada dam has already been built, and water is flowing down the canals, "it is the collective duty to help the people who have suffered for sake of Gujarat farmers." Finding this an important development, Wilfred D'Costa of NGO Insaf, has commented on social media that Rabari's comment was "well said." 
Sagar Rabari
Rabari says, so far, if anything has gone wrong in providing Narmada water to the farmers, it "is politicians' fault", and not of "the farmers or villagers." He underlines, "I have had good terms with Medha Parkar", even when the NBA was "high" in the agenda of those who opposed it.
"We have met many times in and outside Ahmedabad", Rabari says in his social media revelation, adding, though, he cannot vouch for a similar stance of leaders like Sanat Mehta, but as far as he is concerned, "differences do not mean separation." Hence, the "questions" related with continuing to oppose "Patkar or others", he suggests, are out of place.
Notably, Gujarat Khedut Samaj, led by Rabari, is being strongly supported by one of Gujarat's most well known opponents of the NBA and Patkar, veteran leader Sanat Mehta, former chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), and an erstwhile Congress strongman.
Rabari's view about the need to take the support of NBA and Parkar in the "common fight" for farmers comes after he shared a photograph of NBA's satyagraha against submergence of Narmada oustees in Madhya Pradesh at Ghogal village in Khandva district. He was asked whether it means a "support to the NBA agitation" and if there is a change in favour of Patkar.

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